Coming from White Oak Dance Academy in the small town of Warrensburg, Missouri, I had little perception of what to expect upon my arrival to Los Angeles in 2001. I spent my summers in New York training with scholarships I won in competitions from the ages of 12 to 17. These scholarships awarded me training at the Broadway Dance Center, Steps on Broadway, and the Joffrey Ballet Company. The serious business attitude and discipline I acquired from training in New York was the only knowledge I had as far as working in the dance business. Arriving in Los Angeles to Brian Friedman’s advanced jazz class at the Edge Performing Arts Center was culture shock to say the least.
Classically trained, fresh from dancing on cruise ships for a year, I showed up looking my best. Prepared for class in a yellow leotard, black tights, hair slicked back in a bun and black jazz shoes. As I set down my bag and scanned the room I realized I didn’t quite fit in. Everyone was wearing baggy pants, ripped shirts, bras, hats, piercings, colored hair and all types of boots and tennis shoes. Insecurity rushed over me as I took the floor and waited patiently to show off my art and hope for opportunity. I could barely keep up as the class progressed and I was constantly behind about four counts the whole time. Not only did I not fit in, but also I had a lot to learn!
I showed up an hour early to my first Los Angeles audition at Debbie Reynolds. I was expecting to secure a spot in front close to the mirrors of the soon to be crowded room. I stretched as the room filled with people. I vividly remember two loud, obnoxious, girls walking in the room, talking loudly on their cell phones and acting rambunctious. Disrupting the whole room for a moment as everyone took notice. The choreographer takes the floor explaining why we are there. As I being attentive and listening to the instructions, the two girls brush past me as they bully their way to the front. Finally they take their place directly in front of me. I let out a big sigh as feelings of frustration and anger come over me. I had come early for that spot! Obviously affected by my presence one of the girls turns to face me. She tosses her head flipping her hair over one shoulder, staring at me with her black smudged eyes and smacking her gloss filled lips as she chomps on her gum. “Welcome to Hollywood,” she says. Boiling on the inside in disbelief, I kept the feelings to myself. In celebration of the wonderful world of karma, I smiled to myself as both of them were cut from the audition and sent home.
Dance does not stand for Diva. The way we present ourselves and interact with one another in a professional atmosphere shapes the industry we count on for survival. Take pride in the foundation that shapes your opportunity. Choose the level of respect you have for your passion and inspiring other people’s lives wisely. Be aware of your surroundings and your mirror space. Allow the people behind you enough space to see themselves. We all know the importance of the reflection in the mirror as foreign moves settle into your body.
Deodorant will help save the room from a destructible stench. A towel to wipe away your sweat between groups will ensure a safe and dry dance floor. Keep headshots, resumes, and a few clothes options in your car to have on hand at all times. Don’t give them a reason to cut you because you aren’t dressed the part and don’t give yourself an excuse not to make an audition because you’re not prepared. If you want a good spot in front then arrive early!
For the ladies in Los Angeles, we all know that body conscience clothes are inevitable in 90% of our auditions. Always have a pair of black briefs with a crotch 2 inches in width to ensure there are no mishaps. For ladies in small tops, top-stick will ensure no nipples pop out. Heels will be the second requirement in 90% of audition calls. Remember, walking in heels is an art form and dancing in heels is not easy. Buy a pair of black heels you feel comfortable dancing in. Boots are usually better because they support your ankles. Be picky as you choose your perfect pair and keep them on hand at all times. You could be stuck in them for long periods of time and you don’t want unbearable blisters to get in your way. Control depends on feeling your center. Choose heels that aren’t too tall or too short. If they’re too high it will be difficult to control your body. If they’re too short you risk losing beautiful lines due to short, stubby looking legs. For me, two and a half inches is the perfect height.
We create the world of dance we live in. The success and growth of our precious working world of dance depends on us as individuals. Having respect for the craft we believe in will ensure its expansion in the entertainment industry. Create your own set of positive rules to live by. Opportunity is waiting for you. You never know, the person standing next to you at an audition today could be the choreographer hiring you at an audition tomorrow.